The message is clear: Colorado is ready for a change when it comes to the way we regulate, finance, and deliver behavioral health care. In his charge letter to create the Behavioral Health Task Force, Governor Polis wrote: “We can and must do better to transform our system for Coloradans with a behavioral health condition so that they have access to affordable, high-quality, and patient-centered care.”
CBHC couldn’t agree more. The state’s Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) and Managed Services Organizations (MSOs) have done their best to deliver care to all Coloradans in need regardless of location or circumstance. However, they can only do so much without the help of Colorado’s legislature and support of state policymakers.
This year, the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council (CBHC) is looking forward to working with our legislature to create meaningful change within the behavioral health system. As we approach the 2020 legislative session, CBHC has identified three areas around which we can create a more balanced approach to delivering behavioral health services.
First, we need to expand access to care. In order to do so, nonprofit, community-based providers need to maintain a highly trained, stable workforce. Last year, CBHC was grateful to see a 2% provider rate increase for workforce; however, community providers are still struggling to compete with the state and other health care employers for professional staff. Working together, we can find a way to offer better worker compensation and better reimbursements for entities that deliver critical behavioral health care services.
Next, we need to responsibly transform our current complex system. Governor Polis’s Behavioral Health Task Force and several recent legislative interim committees have prioritized transformation. CBHC welcomes and supports these efforts. One way to reduce complexity is to end the decades-long separation found in the state statute regarding alcohol and drug civil commitment procedures. But even as we transform, we must do so responsibly and with an eye toward ensuring that Colorado’s rural and frontier regions have the resources needed to overcome our state’s geographic and demographic differences. Working together, we can transform our system so it is less complex – while ensuring that all areas of our state have the resources needed to access a full continuum of services.
Finally, and most importantly, we need to advance the well-being of all Coloradans. Without feeling safe, secure, and cared for, individuals cannot function properly in society. When citizens don’t know how to talk to someone who is in emotional distress, they lose the ability to form connections that can greatly improve the livelihoods of those who are hurting. Working together, we can find a way to advance evidenced-based programs like Mental Health First Aid that empower average citizens to better support each other.
After years of studies, reports, recommendations, and task forces, it’s time to get specific and implement change. This is a call to all who are ready to stand up and make a change. It is time that we work together to give every Coloradan the opportunity to have a healthy and happy today.